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Top tips for setting up guardianship

As parents pick a guardian, they must consider what type of guardianship is needed, who is willing to take on the role and how to make it binding.

It is more common for older Illinois residents to have a will than those who are in the generation X or millennial age bracket. According to AARP, 58 percent of people between the ages of 53 and 71 have set up a living will. However, 36 percent of people aged 37 to 52 and only 22 percent of people between 18 and 36 have some sort of estate planning done. Even young people who have kids neglect setting up this legal document. When children are involved, a will should name a guardian who will watch over the children should anything happen to the parents.

Learn about the different types of guardians

Before anyone can set up a legal guardian for his or her child, he or she must understand what type of guardian is needed. The most common type, the testamentary custodian, is one who takes over raising children or an adult with disabilities after the death of a parent. However, guardians can fall into other categories, such as the following:

  • Limited guardianship keeps some of the decision-making skills with the ward. This is most commonly used when the adult ward has some type of learning disability or is being left a large trust.
  • Temporary custody lasts up to 60 days. This type of short term guardianship is often used when the parent of a minor child or a permanent guardian has to travel to get to the children. A form is available and court action is not required.
  • Supervision of the estate gives control of the ward's finances to a custodian. This is most commonly used for young adults with large trusts or mental disabilities.
  • A surviving natural parent will most likely be granted custody of a minor child, but someone else can be appointed as a custodian of the money.

Families need to consider the type of legal guardian that is best for their situation. As the children age, the godparent needs may change.

Talk with potential guardians

Before parents name a person as their child's legal caretaker, it is important they make sure the godparent is interested in the role. Parents should take the time to explain the role to eliminate potential surprises. Not all siblings or cousins will feel confident in taking over the role of parental figure.

Make it legal

Finally, it is important for a person to put his or her decision in writing. Creating a legally binding document that names a guardian for a child ensures the parent's wishes will be kept after his or her death. If a will is not finished, the courts may decide who takes custody of any children. Courts often have to be involved when family members fight over who should have guardianship of minors.

Illinois residents need to create a will that specifies who will take custody of their children to ensure the kids are well taken care of in the event of a death. It can be helpful to work with an attorney who has experience with estate planning.